How can you tell if a translation is any good?


People often ask how they can judge translation quality if they don’t know the target language. That’s a good question, and the right one to be asking when you need a translated text that’s as effective as the original.

Although you sometimes hear claims that translation quality is subjective, there are objective ways of assessing both the translation itself and the overall service provided.

Here are the key things you need to look for:


  • Correct transfer of the content from the source to the target text.
  • Appropriate choice of terminology, vocabulary, idiom and register in the target language.
  • Appropriate use of grammar, spelling, punctuation and syntax, as well as accurate transfer of dates, names, figures, etc. in the target language.
  • Appropriate style for the purpose of the text.

Work process

  • Certification in accordance with national and/or international quality standards such as translation-specific ISO 17100.


  • Speed and appropriateness of responses to customer queries.
  • Fulfilment of delivery commitments.

In short, a quality translation clearly and effectively communicates the author’s intention to the reader and achieves the same impact as the original, whether that be to increase revenue directly (win a tender, close a sale or convince decision-makers) or indirectly (by reinforcing brand image and reputation).

If you’re not familiar with the target language, then ask one of your intended readers — a customer, a user, or a distributor — to give you their opinion. Ask them what they think. Is it a good translation? Is the terminology right? Is it fit for purpose? They’ll soon tell you if the translation fulfils its function and communicates the intended message clearly and effectively.

Andrew Steel

Andrew Steel

Senior translator and editor, DipTransIoLET, MCIL, MITI

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